Why the autumn/winter gigroll is looking a little bare
Yesterday’s announcement that Primal Scream will be playing their magnificent “Screamadelica” album in full at Dublin’s O2 on December 29 (tickets €44.05 plus TM fees) had me scurrying to the O2 site to see just how many gigs are booked …
Yesterday’s announcement that Primal Scream will be playing their magnificent “Screamadelica” album in full at Dublin’s O2 on December 29 (tickets €44.05 plus TM fees) had me scurrying to the O2 site to see just how many gigs are booked into the docklands venue. I pass the place a few times every week and it looks rather quiet to me these days, especially compared to the palaver when it first opened with its branded bells and whistles. There’s a grand total of 18 shows in the venue between now and the end of the year, leaving 81 nights yet to be booked. The word you’re looking for is “ooops”.
Then, there was this morning’s missive announcing that dEUS’ Dublin show tomorrow night has been moved from the Olympia to the Academy. No reason has been given – not even “unforeseen circumstances”, which we seem to have beaten out of promoters – but it doesn’t take much detective work to see why a show in the Olympia (big capacity) has been moved to the Academy (lower capacity). Actually, the line in the press release about “all original tickets purchased are valid for the venue change with a limited number of tickets available from Ticketmaster outlets and online” is the clincher. Gig has stiffed, people. We don’t want no pesky Belgian rockers who’ve been around for years and certainly not at €30 (plus TM Fees) a pop.
This may well be the season when live music chickens come home to roost. I don’t think I can recall a quieter period for big gigs in the capital or country. Sure, there are plenty of smaller acts touring up and down the land and every Irish band who released an album this year will be on the highways and byways in December to make some cash for the Christmas. But the bigger gigs, the marquee shows, are noticable by their absence.
We have reached a tipping point or, if you like, several tipping points. There’s the fact that acts have realised that they can’t just tour again and again and again. It used to be common for the same act to play Ireland at least three times in one year but the act, management, agent and promoters know that doing the dog like that just doesn’t wash. Acts and their business entourages have to be smarter about making cash from tours and live shows.
There’s the fact that promoters have wised up. They’re still counting the losses from the summer and know there is no point in having a savage competition with their rivals to get an act when the public just doesn’t want to see that act in that venue. Sure, there are shows like Bon Iver, George Michael and Rihanna which are sold out, but the vast bulk are not (including some surprising ones – I though all the tickets for Gillian Welch at Grand Canal Theatre would have been snapped up in a day) and no-one will be making a song and dance about it because unsold-out shows are now the norm. People just don’t have the cash to spare for all those live shows like they had in the good times.
Then, there’s the fact that the recession has kicked ass with the live music industry’s business plan. When the game became about playing live, few imagined that a day would come when punters just could not afford to go to their local live music joint, pay for the ticket at the door and have a good time. There wasn’t even a footnote about such a possibility. Now, it’s come to pass and, guess what, there’s no plan B.
All of the current rumblings will have consequences for the 2012 festival season. Are we going to see even more smaller events next year? Will the big ones still continue to lose audience share and cash? Will the public finally fall out of love with listening to live music in a tent or a field? Eyes peeled, this one is going to get interesting.